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Category Archives: Corporal punishment

Washington (Whipping) Post, December 25, 1904. When President Teddy Roosevelt used his bully pulpit to advocate the flogging of wife-beaters, 60% of D.C. clergy backed his play. Arguments pro and con are pretty interesting: You’ve got the one Presbyterian who connects his support for “the lash” to the fact that he’s a “Confederate,” then a Catholic whose opposition stems from his boyhood eyewitness of the brutal whipping of a Maryland “colored man.” It comes as no surprise that flogging sentences were indeed meted out far more frequently to black than white offenders–I’ll post some stats on that later. The con camp also includes slippery-slope thinkers who ask why wives who beat their husbands and/or children shouldn’t also be eligible for a horsehide rolfing. Which reminds me, I’ve got a fair stockpile of abused-husband anecdotes to unload at some point too. The last image in the gallery is of a whipping penalty enacted on April 20, 1926. Five lashes is actually a pretty light sentence and maybe shows waning enthusiasm for the tradition. Ten and twenty lashes seemed to be the standard of industry in its heyday in Maryland and Delaware.

trib 3 2 21 wbChicago Tribune, May 3, 1921. I want to believe that a random poll of five people on an ordinary Chicago street could still yield a magician, two dancers, a model and a secretary, I truly do. Anyway, the consensus is pretty strong across the vocational spectrum: wife-beaters merit the lash. Or the ducking stool at minimum.

econChicago Tribune, November 10, 1867. Interesting thing here is the assertion that wife-beating “seldom attracts the special attention of the public.” As we’ve seen, the newspapers and especially judges were all over this issue and competing to be out in front as hardliners against wife-beaters. So too, as we’ll see, were politicians and clergymen. Read More »

tarSan Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 1892. Even if I blogged 24/7/365 strictly about wife-beating, I’d never live long enough to exhaust the available supply of these anecdotes about masked men enforcing community standards with a rope and a whip. As mentioned before, such incidents are part of an ancient tradition called the “rough music.” This one’s interesting for its ferocity plus the stipulation that it was the local gentry who were taking care of business. But when, I wonder, was the last time someone was tarred and feathered by his neighbors in this great country of ours?
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schoolboysNew York Tribune, May 24, 1921. Maybe they were Boy Scouts earning their “Vigilante” badges. Well done, lads. Note how revulsion against wife-beaters trumps revulsion at the spectacle of youths physically tormenting an old man. The KKK reference is significant: the Second Ku Klux Klan is riding high in 1921 and was big in and around Akron.

pokesNew York Times, February 7, 1935. Interesting to see a judge urging a defendant to take the law into his own hands. With the tacit, winking approval of the New York Times, no less.

$10New York Tribune, March 31, 1912. We’re going to consider some extrajudicial responses to the wife-beating problem for a while.

waop 10 19 22Washington Post, October 19, 1922. I’m pretty sure no one ever ran against this guy with a “Judge Burke: Soft on Wife-Beaters . . . Wrong for Wilkes-Barre!” campaign.

SPANKS Nyt 2 2 27New York Times, February 2, 1927. As with the foot-kissing scenario, this method entails the risk that the malefactor will be, you know, kinda into it.

kick trib 3 7 21Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1921. Steel shoes! I guess that job would be outsourced to old-timey deep-sea divers then? Read More »